‘What I’m Learning While My Dog is Dying’

My dear, sweet dog is showing the signs of a dog that knows it’s time on Earth is coming to a close.  Confusion, shaking, weakness, behavior changes, loss of ‘control’, and the dreaded signs of not wanting to eat or drink.  Luckily, one of the medications has jump-started her desire to eat, but she hasn’t touched anything to drink in two days.  I’m mixing water into her food, but I know it won’t work forever.  Katie just wants to curl up with either me or Lucy – and be loved.  I’m supremely grateful that we’ve got time to say goodbye while she’s still able to walk outside with us, still able to enjoy a ‘good sniff in the wind’, still able to recognize us, and return our love.

Never in my life have I so wanted to be wrong about something, but I think she’s going to be moving on soon.

Amazingly, I’ve been learning some very interesting things over the last few days.

First, I always thought that ‘big events’ like this would keep me acting on my best behavior — but I’ve learned that I can still be a jerk to my wife and those around me, even when I’ve pledged to myself to be good.

I’ve learned that Katie is far more stunning than I ever gave her credit for.  If I’m out in public with her, virtually everyone comments on how beautiful she is, asks what breed she is, and starts petting her.  She’s simply magnetic.

I’ve learned that even at 49 years old, I can still cry as if I were seven.  You know, that snot-nosed, uncontrollable sobbing that makes it impossible to speak any louder than a squeaking mouse.  I thought that kind of ‘weakness’ was behind me.  But I also learned that it felt good to be ‘that kind’ of weak.

In the last few days, I’ve learned that I can talk with random people that I don’t know as if I’ve known them for years.  I’ve known people with that very special gift, and I’ve always wanted to know what it was like to be able to do that.  Apparently, I can do it.  How?  Keep reading…

I’ve had Katie for three and a half years, and something about her was instrumental in bringing me to God.  Earlier today, I found myself relating that story to a total stranger as a ‘gentle’ form of evangelization – just dropping it into the conversation without any attempt to ‘push’ anything on them.  The person smiled, hugged Katie, and responded that ‘dog’ is just ‘God’ spelled backwards – and then we moved on to talking about other things.  But if that person had been searching, and the conversation had moved into questions about faith – I would have been ready.  Most importantly, I learned that I could sow the seeds…

I’ve learned that modern medicine is great, but God is far better.  Katie’s symptoms indicate that she is (most likely) dying of a brain tumor.  After spending a small fortune, we’ve ruled out almost everything else with ultrasounds, X-rays, blood work, and more – but if we had wanted to, we could have continued to CT scans, MRI’s, spinal taps, etc.  But to what end?  It’s her time.  Is it really that much more comforting to know exactly what is causing her decline?  Centuries ago, people simply died.  Nowadays, we’re often encouraged to spend every last dime so that we can consume every last drug so that we can extend life by every last second.  I think there’s got to be a better balance.  Some sense of balance between love and dignity, between hanging on too tight and letting go in love.  I’ve learned that spending the last days at home in love is better than running from doctor to doctor in stress.

Sadly, I’ve learned that most people love an ‘unknown’ dog far more than they love an ‘unknown’ person.  If I had been out in public with an aging aunt, most people would shy away and avoid eye contact.  Not so with my Katie.  People bend down, pet, hug, stroke, and reassure her.  They ask dozens of questions about her condition, and about what the doctors have said.  They offer advice, and will talk for as long as I’m willing to stand in one place.  And before parting company, almost everyone reminds me to hold out for a miracle.  One man screamed it to me from across Glades road as I drove away.

There are a lot of people out there that love God.  It’s just that this culture keeps telling them to ‘keep it to themselves’ – or ‘suffer the consequences’.  Thank you, Katie, for showing me – through your imminent death – that the majority of people out there are still joyfully in His loving care.  Thank you, Jesus, by showing me – through your obedient death – that God is loving, merciful, understanding, and concerned about every single one of us.  Personally.

Most of all, I’ve learned that people just want to connect with other people on some deeper level than saying ‘Have a nice day and the obligatory ‘Fine’.  We are all members of one body, and the parts of that body want to communicate with each other.  They need to.  It’s sad that many of us don’t have the confidence to do so naturally.  People want to show that they care – even about strangers – they just don’t know how.  Thank God that dogs can serve to bridge that gap sometimes.  Dogs are communication catalysts.

Want to connect with people?  Get a dog — or borrow one from your neighbor.

Please say a quick prayer that Katie stays comfortable and sheltered from anxiety.


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